Sterling Shepard is still getting used to plenty of things as a rookie wide receiver, but adjusting to the actual game isn’t necessarily one of them. Case in point: A few days after playing a part in the Giants’ 10-7 win over the Cowboys, in which he had a key fourth-down reception, Shepard was informed that he’d been fined for wearing all- white socks.
“I didn’t know it was that big of a deal,” Shepard said after Thursday’s practice, adding that he thought the all-white socks was a cool look. “I don’t know why they have such a problem with looking [cool]. I don’t understand, but it is what it is.”
According to NFL guidelines for uniforms, all players must wear socks that include both team colors; by wearing all white and not including blue, Shepard was in violation of the rule and was fined $6,000. (He said he will appeal because he changed when told about the uniform issue at halftime.)
He might not have been the only one to run afoul of the NFL’s fine police, because fellow receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Roger Lewis Jr. also wore all-white socks, as did defensive end Olivier Vernon and linebacker Keenan Robinson.
“I got fined earlier in the season for my shirt being out, which I didn’t know about,” Shepard said. “I had done that since college. I got fined for that, so I don’t do that anymore. Now it’s the socks, so I’ll stop doing that.”
Good thing adjusting to the Giants’ offense has been far more seamless for the baby-faced 23-year-old rookie. He has taken over as the slot receiver, a spot at which Cruz once flourished before injuries interrupted his career and eventually forced him to be an outside receiver this year.
With 51 catches for 536 yards and six touchdowns, Shepard is the team’s second-leading receiver behind Beckham. He no doubt will be a key factor in whether the Giants get to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season.
“This is what I was born to do,” Shepard said. “I’m loving it. I love being around this group of guys. It’s the best thing in the world. I’ve been loving this game since I was a little kid. To be at this level, which is where I’ve always wanted to be since I was a little kid, it’s like a dream come true.”
Shepard grew up in Oklahoma, where his dad, the late Derrick Shepard, helped win the national championship for the Sooners in 1985. The son of a former Oklahoma wide receiver, Sterling followed in his father’s footsteps and played for the Sooners, capping a terrific career with 1,288 yards and 11 touchdown catches as a senior in 2015. The Giants thought enough of him to draft him in the second round.
Shepard learned early on about his father’s college and pro careers, although their time together was cut short when Derrick Shepard died of a heart attack at age 35 in 1999.
“I remember seeing his helmets everywhere, all the game balls he got,” Sterling said of his father, who played for the Redskins, Saints and Cowboys from 1987-92. “I was 6 years old when he died. I knew him pretty good, but there’s some stuff that’s kind of foggy when it comes to remembering everything. I had him for six years and I got the gist of what he did and what he did for a living.
“I used to go to all the Oklahoma games. My life was football. Every single [birthday] cake my mom made me was in the shape of a football. Everything was ingrained in me from the time I was a little kid.”
It shows on the field, where he has quickly become ingrained in the offense.
Now, about those socks . . .